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Laboratory testing is an integral part of our herd management here at Atwood Acres. Years ago when we started out with our first few goats (as pets) we looked to pay the least we could and quickly found out that “you get what you pay for." The health of these animals caused many headaches—thank goodness the problems were never serious, only time consuming and expensive to treat. We quickly decided to look toward registered animals, expecting that these breeders would most likely be more conscientious about the health of their animals. We were correct for the most part and started doing much research on diseases found in goats and available laboratory testing for those conditions. We sold all of our “pets” and started purchasing registered animals from reputable breeders. We also immediately implemented a rigorous testing program for our animals, which included testing animals prior to purchase and quarantining new herd additions.
At Atwood Acres We:
We voluntarily participate in the National Scrapie Eradication Program. For specific disease and volunteering information: http://www.animalagriculture.org/scrapie/Media/FactSheet.htm
CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis)
We test annually for CAE and have tested negative with every herd test. All animals 6 months and older are tested.
CAE is caused by a retrovirus. The virus does not cross the placental barrier but is carried in milk and colostrum. This means that kids born from infected does are born clean. If kids become infected, it is due to nursing or from being licked clean by the infected mothers.
The virus presents itself in two forms: Kids present symptoms of neurological signs associated with encephalitis. Weakness and un-coordination begin in the hind legs and progress to forelegs. Most do not survive the disease. Transmission in adults is less common. Casual contact is unlikely to result in the infection and there is no evidence that the disease is transmitted via semen from infected male goats to the females. Adults will develop swollen joints that can progress to lameness. The disease may progress slowly over many years or may progress very quickly. The animal just seems to “waste away”. Udder involvement has been known, causing udder edema and loss of milk production.
Currently the only tests available for CAE test only for the antibodies to the virus, not the virus itself. The most common are the AGID (agar gel immunodiffusion) and the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). The ELISA method is both more sensitive and specific than the AGID but is generally more expensive.
There is no treatment for this condition. The culling of any positive reactors should follow periodic testing of the herd. A clean herd can be built and protected by following some basic kidding practices. Pull all kids immediately after kidding, before the dam has a chance to lick them clean. The disease can be passed through nasal secretions. The mother is then milked and the colostrum is heat treated before feeding to the kids. It’s a good idea to store heated treated colostrum in the freezer for immediate use once kids arrive. Feed only pasteurized milk or goat milk replacer. Keep kids separated from other goats and practice strict hygiene while caring for them.
Johne’s Disease (Paratuberculosis)
Our Johne’s testing is done annually on everyone in the herd over 6 months of age. Our methods of testing include culture or DNA probe on fecal samples. These are two of the most specific and sensitive tests available. Fecal culture is the most accurate test available but can take up to 14-16 weeks to complete. The DNA probe turn around time is usually with a week.
Johne’s, like CAE, is also considered a “wasting” disease. Johne’s is an incurable, chronic disease of the lower intestines of ruminants (goats, sheep and cattle). Mycobacterium paratuberculsis is a slow-growing bacterium belonging to the same family as tuberculosis. The bacterium causes a thickening of the intestinal wall, which in turn disallows nutritional absorption. Most animals exposed become inapparent carriers with no clinical symptoms. Some clear the infection completely while other develop a chronic infection that leads to clinical signs and terminal disease. The incubation period can range from 6 to 11 months to 8-9 years. Diagnosis and control are difficult due to the chronic nature of this disease. The lack of definitive tests of early infection and the ability to survive in the environment for up to a year also make this disease hard to monitor. M. paratuberculosis can survive up to 11 months in manure and soil and 5-9 months in river and pond water.
Transmission is primarily achieved through a fecal-oral route. Infection usually occurs within a few months of birth by ingesting feces from an infected animal or fecal contaminated udders, food and water. Adults can be infected also but generally larger doses and prolonged exposure is needed to establish the infection. There is a question of transmission via the organism in milk or in-utero. Younger animals are more susceptible to infection at lower doses while prolonged exposure to large numbers of organisms are required to establish infection in yearlings. Sub-clinical animals may only shed the organism during extreme times of stress, i.e. kidding and lactation.
Currently, definitive diagnosis depends on isolation of M. paratuberculosis from feces or from biopsy or post-mortem samples of the intestinal mucosa. Fecal culture techniques are generally recognized as the most sensitive and specific anti-mortem test for diagnosis. Solid media culture can take 6-14 weeks to complete and a liquid media form can be completed within 2-6 weeks. This method requires confirmation by DNA probes specific for the organism.
Serology tests are available but only test for antibodies present in the serum. The drawback to this form of testing is that most animals may never sero-convert or if they do, it’s in the later stages of the disease. The organism is shed in the feces and can do so only on an intermittent basis. This also contributes to the difficulty in catching this disease. The most commonly used serologic tests are the CF (complement fixation), AGID and ELISA. These tests lack sensitivity in identification of subclinical and asymptomatic carrier animals.
There is no effective treatment for Johne’s disease. Testing can be used as a tool to identify infected animals and to what extent the herd may be infected. A very easy first step is monitoring the condition (body condition or weight) of your animals. Herd management is the key to prevention and elimination of Johne’s. Purchasing from “clean” herds and controlling fecal-oral transmission is a necessary part of this management. Sanitation of feed troughs and water sources are a must.
Due to the nature of the disease and the lack of definitive tests, certification that a herd is free of Johne’s would be very difficult if not impossible. Annual whole herd testing by fecal culture with no history of clinical disease could be used to rate a herd as “low risk”.
Bottom line, an animal could consistently test negative for the disease, die at a ripe old age from non-Johne’s related conditions and Johne’s could be found upon autopsy. We have some means to monitor the disease but it still remains very elusive.
**A large portion of the information provided on Johne’s was obtained through Dr. Susan Stehman, V.M.D., M.S. NY Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Cornell University.
BoSe (Selenium) - Given prior to breeding season and to pregnant does 1 month prior to kidding. Given to kids immediately after birth.
All kids are given a medicated 18% protein feed along with free choice hay, water and loose minerals. Bucks and wethers are fed a medicated feed along with pasture, hay, fresh water and loose minerals containing ammonium chloride to help in the prevention of urinary calculi.
Does are fed pasture, fresh water, loose minerals and western alfalfa hay. Lactating does get an additional ration of goat feed while on the milk stand twice daily.
We perform fecal checks on random samples collected on a regular basis. We deworm according to the findings on the fecal slides.
Hoof Trimming and Clipping
Animals are checked regularly for the need of hoof trimming. The frequency depends on the time of year, feed ration and individual history of the animal.
Clipping generally begins in the spring just before show season starts. The entire herd will be clipped as time permits. Most animals will receive several clips throughout the spring, summer and fall. We try not to clip past Labor day due to our cool fall nights. Pregnant does get at least an udder, belly and behind clip prior to kidding and will then body clipped as soon as weather permits.
To become an Accredited herd for TB requires two consecutive years of negative testing for the entire herd including testing new herd additions before arrival and then shortly after coming to the farm. All animals 6 months and older are tested.
“Tuberculosis (TB) can occur in goats and the organism can infect humans. Most states require a negative TB test prior to allowing movement of animals into the state. The organism can be shed in milk, so all animals producing milk for human consumption should also have a negative test or the milk should be pasteurized. TB can produce mild to sever clinical signs. Chronic wasting and coughing may be the only signs seen. Other animals may have an intestinal form of TB with diarrhea as the primary sign. Diagnosis is made by intradermal skin test or by post-mortem exam.” Text obtained from Pygmy Goats Management and Veterinary Care by Lorrie Boldrick D.V.M. and Lydia Hale
Brucellosis (Bang’s Disease)
To become a Certified Free herd for Brucelosis requires two consecutive years of negative testing for the entire herd including testing new herd additions before arrival and then shortly after coming to the farm. All animals 6 months and older are tested.
Brucellosis is not a common problem in goats. However, it can infect people either by direct contact with infected goats or by ingestion of contaminated milk products. In man, the disease presents itself as Malta Fever.
Brucella organisms infect an animal’s placenta and udder, causing abortion and mastitis.
B. melitensis causes abortions, which is primarily seen in the last two months of gestation. The organism is transmitted by ingestion of infected aborted materials. The organism can be found in the fetus, fetal membranes and fetal fluids. B. abortus is a disease of cattle but can occasional affect goats. Although it does affect goats, it must be said that infection is extremely unlikely. B. abortus has successfully been eradicated from cattle in the USA and several other countries in the world.
There is no cure for Brucellosis. The disease is treated in herds by the slaughtering of reacting animals.